We are witnessing the last days not just of Saddam Hussein, but also of French pretentions to be a world power, and perhaps of the United Nations. The fate of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was sealed by Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation. What Mr. Powell said was impressive, made more so by the way he said it. But what was most important was that he made a presentation at all.
By showing satellite photos and playing intercepts of radio and telephone conversations, Mr. Powell provided Iraq with important information about the capabilities of U.S. intelligence. This will make it easier for Saddam to thwart U.S. surveillance in the future. Mr. Powell knows this full well, and wouldn’t have jeopardized U.S. sources and methods if he didn’t think it wouldn’t matter for very much longer what Saddam knows about our intelligence capabilities.
France’s fate, and that of the United Nations, was sealed by France’s continuing attempts to frustrate U.S. policy.
France is no longer an ally, and should no longer be treated as such, said Richard Perle, who, as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, is more than a private citizen, but less than a government official.
This is not bad news, because France as an “ally” is more harmful to the interests of the United States than France as an enemy.
The United States has not been seeking French support for military action against Saddam because of any material help the French could provide. Going to war without France is, in the words of former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbin, like going deer hunting without an accordian.
The French have no objection to unilateral military interventions. They are engaged in one now in the Ivory Coast, where they are getting badly kicked. This is a typical result. The French haven’t had a battlefield success since the time of Napoleon. The Germans whipped them in the Franco-Prussian War, and again in World Wars I and II. The Vietnamese kicked them out of Indochina, and the Algerians kicked them out of North Africa.
The only value the French could have in a “Coalition of the Willing” would be to teach the Iraqis how to surrender. But on the evidence of the first Persian Gulf war the Iraqis already have this down pat.
We have nothing to fear from the French as an enemy, and nothing to gain from France as an ally. The French have supported the United States and NATO only to the extent they perceived it in their interests to do so. The French have been there when they needed us. Period.
Thanks to our generosity and foolishness, France has been able to recover at the peace table what it lost on the battlefield. Though France contributed almost nothing to the Allied victory in World War II, it was given a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council alongside the nations that actually did the fighting.
It is France’s permanent membership on the Security Council, with the veto that comes with it, that feeds France’s delusions of grandeur. If it weren’t for its ability to posture on the U.N. stage, hardly anyone besides the editors of the New York Times would care what the French think about anything.
The French consider themselves sophisticated in the ways of the world, so it’s been fun to watch how they’ve been outmaneuvered by the “cowboy” in the White House.
France and Germany would like to build the European Union into a superstate that would serve as a counterweight to the United States. By claiming to speak for Europe in opposing military action against Iraq, they hoped to isolate us.
But EU expansion has doomed their ambition. The smaller countries resent the efforts of France and Germany to dominate them, and the former communist countries are grateful to the United States for rescuing them. The rulers of 19 European countries have expressed support for the United States. It is the “Axis of Weasels” that now is isolated.
France can veto a resolution authorizing force, but that will mean the effective end of the United Nations. If the United Nations refuses to authorize action to enforce its resolutions, it will fade into the shadows, and take with it France’s role on the world stage. Few in the United States will shed tears at the curtain call.
Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration and is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.